Broad Valley Orchard

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Hurricane Irene = More Rain


I am sitting here watching the rains gather from our latest gift from the tropics.  Far over the hill I can here some desperate farm neighbor up and towing his ‘jet engine’ , ie.  sprayer, behind his tractor thru his swampy fields and orchards.  Best I can tell, he is just doing it because he has run out of options.

The apple crop was nearly ruined by the three ‘soft hail storms’ in the late Spring and early Summer.  For all their work, the big growers will probably receive “Below Cider Rate” for their harvest.  Most of our apples are so bad that I am composting the worst, and feeding the sound, but unusable, ones to the goats (who do really enjoy them), and we are canning and will dry the usable pomes when the relative humidity drops below 100%.

We have pulled in some good berry harvests, so that will keep us above water.  Our outside garden crops have been a mixed bag – I estimate that 1/3 of our plantings have failed, 1/3 have produced a fair crop, and only 1/3 have produced a good crop.  This is the first bad year of potatoes for me, after growing them for 40 years.  I guess our high point was watermelons; I harvested one Sugar Baby the weighted 14 pounds (average is 7#), and they all tasted wonderful!

Yes, I do feel sorry for the big farmers, with real debt load, and high operating expenses.  Good thing the housing market is still shot, or all the abandoned and over-grown former orchards would be sprouting McMansion burbs (although our head intern, Sara, calls them “Starter Castles”).  I kind of like that term.

Oh, as for us here in “Chateau Marti”, a mid-18oo’s two story log cabin with a cobbled-on 1920’2 framed addition, we still stand!  The other day I took CSA shares into Gettysburg, and the DC earthquake hit.  Judy reported that the ground undulated and the house shook back and forth.  Just a week before, our CSA worker Bill, came out with his 5 ton floor jack, and helped us jack up the under-pinnings of the addition’s foundation.  The old ‘strongback’, a 6″x6″x1o’ log beam (that had powder post beetles)  was only held up by the two emergency posts that my our friend Danny helped me set 28 years ago, were really falling apart, and the floor was sinking above it.

We put in 2 new 12′ x6″x6″ beams, jacking the whole structure up to fit them up against  the chestnut log base of the framing, and set 6×6 posts under these new strongbacks.  Did this save us from a possible collapse?  I don’t know, but I am glad I didn’t have to find out.  Bill will be out again this week, and now that the addition’s floor is safely supported, we’ll take out that powdery  strong back, and replace it and its 2 posts, too.

We’ll also R&R  the main post in the older chestnut cabin’s floor (those 150 year old6″x6″  chestnut floor beams (joists), and the  are in good shape, and the 18′ long 8″x8″ strongback (main beam) is sound.  The toughest job is mining out holes in the rough laid stone walls in the addition, to accept beam ends, then re-laying the stone, better than they were.  I’m glad that my hobby is building stone walls; this job is like working in a mine!

So, that is the news from BVO.  I look forward to sitting here thru this stormy day working on my latest genealogy project, which you can read about on Menu Item “Rusted Dreams-Busted Lives” .  The past is wonderful – it is the future that scares me.  Well, let me spin up the Tardis…………

Thom Who

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